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Thou Fool!

Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

It is surprising how many times we refer to a person as being crazy or being mentally deficient (e.g. "an idiot") when we want to insult them.  Jesus seemed to be addressing this common practice when he told his disciples not to call anyone "a fool".

When we disagree with another person, often we see their arguments as being weak, and we see our arguments as being strong.  It can be quite difficult to communicate why it is that we think our arguments are more rational than theirs, and so we can take out our frustration just by slapping a label on the other person's arguments (or actions) as being crazy or stupid.  But Jesus tells us that we need something better than that to prove our point.

Something I have noted with regard to this tendency to insult someone's mental abilities when arguing is that we usually do it with people whom we really do NOT think are suffering from mental illness or intellectually challenged.  Think about it.  Most decent people would not insult someone suffering from Downs Syndrome as a way of hurting them, would they?  We recognise that their condition is something that they were born with, and that it has probably made life considerably more difficult for them than what we ourselves experience.

We might be a little less sympathetic with someone who is suffering from depression or schizophrenia, but on the whole most people know that it is cruel and unfair to ridicule someone for a mental condition that they are powerless to overcome.  Yet we still refer to our sane enemies (and even some of our sane friends) as being crazy or stupid when they do or say things that we object to.

I am pointing this out mostly to encourage anyone who has been accused of such things.  Remembering that people generally do not make fun of people whom they genuinely believe to be suffering a mental handicap may be some small encouragement when someone repeatedly accuses you of being crazy, stupid, idiotic, or just foolish.

Of course, if we are capable of something better and still we make decisions or espouse ideas that are clearly unfair, unworkable, cruel, or in some other way irrational, then it may be understandable that others will say that we are acting in ways that they would only expect a person suffering from a mental disability to act.  What needs to be addressed may not be the insult so much as the behaviour which elicited it.

Obviously Jesus had good reason for telling us not to insult people in this way, and that is probably because it is not easy for most of us to keep from feeling inferior when such insults abound.  If we really want to change someone who is acting in a way that seems foolish, then we should be looking for ways to overcome the lack of knowledge that led to such behaviour, and not just insulting their intelligence.  Patient correction is the better way, even if it is not as easy.

When we feel impatient and we give in to the feeling by insulting someone else, then it really says something quite strong about our own mental state.  Maybe if we can remember that, it will help us to overcome the temptation to use words like crazy and stupid to hurt other people.

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